Who Does Our We Include?

A Meditation for Thanks-giving and Thanks-grieving

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
the first line of a favorite Thanksgiving hymn
sung over and over year after year,
but these days I wonder, who is the “we” in that sacred song?
I have known for years it does not include turkeys,
as a vegetarian I am not joking,
the right of animals to live is very important to me,
not to mention how if we ate less meat
there would be more grains and other foods
for starving children and even adults.

But does our “we” include Native peoples
whose ground is no longer theirs, belonging
now to us, the white descendants of those
who took the land for a few beads or over dead bodies,
gunfights, cavalry charges, and disease
all playing a part in creating many trails
where tears and loss were, and still are,
markers on the way to landlocked prisons,
somebody’s so clever idea of fair trade:
after all, we’re civilized, they are not.

Does our we include these?

Or what about those grieving for dead sons, daughters,
brothers, sisters, friends, lying in blood on our streets,
victims of drive-bys and of trigger-happy cops
not to mention those still living who walk in fear,
holding their black and brown bodies hard and ready,
swaggering perhaps to hide the terror inside,
or the transwomen, especially those of darker hue,
who rank so high on the dead-to-be list,
and those lying in pools of their own lost identities
begging when they can for a scrap, a bottle, a kind word.

Does our we include these?

And what of those from away who journey here,
to this land we call ours,
seeking safety, work, and education,
a chance to break out of stifling, dangerous
roles and hierarchies, to breathe free air
we proclaim is the birthright of all God’s people
even as we continue to say some are more godly
than others, and their children told to dream,
but will it be deferred, even denied?

Does our we include these?

Queers, too, those who love differently,
their bodies performing outside the gender rules and roles,
for whom sex is an active language of desire
not merely a way to catch someone else’s eye
(though maybe that as well, in joy and fun and hope)
or snag their money in a purchase claiming to create
sexiness or success more than ever seemed possible—
sex workers as well–all who impudently challenge what others
claim is God’s unchanging law that only one man on top
of one matrimonial woman is ever allowed?

Does our we include these?

And homeless ones for whom alcoves and heating vents
become havens during frigid nights, huddled beneath raggedy cardboard
quilts, rickety shopping carts the only storage units
they will ever rent? And the millions even with homes of their own
with little or no health care or fearing the zeal of some
to take what they have by providing credits they can never use?
And those who do not believe, or believe in ways not as we do,
what of them? Do all these give thanks or perhaps they feel other ways,
not sure they are blessed enough to join in our thanks-giving,
instead joining in an unruly, but sacred, chorus of thanks-grieving?

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.
Who does your , and my, we include?

About this poem . . . . My dear friend and mentor of sainted memory, Rev. Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé, long ago told me about Thanksgrieving, a time when he, as an Africanibrahim American and Native American man, would join with many others to feel both gratitude and deep pain and loss for being alive on this one day each year when in the United States we pause to give thanks. My people, and many others, he said, paid so dearly that others, people who look like you, Robin, might carve a turkey and feel good about yourselves. I promised him I would never forget, and that I would seek to do what I can to help all of us remember and to give thanks for the sacrifice of so many, and to work to change the present and future so such sacrifice is no longer required.



©Robin Gorsline 2016 Fatihfulpoetics.net

Praying to Change the World

Written for and Delivered at the
Interfaith Passover Seder
sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace – Metro DC Chapter
at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
April 3, 2016/5776

Praying to Change the World

I join you tonight in prayer and hope and peace and love,
even joy, as a queer Christian minister and theologian,
married to a beautiful Jewish man, a father, grandfather,  brother, uncle,
member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Conservative/Reconstructionist
synagogue and an LGBTQI affirming, multi-racial Protestant church,
citizen of this land that is still far from free,
that still imprisons Native peoples on reservations
and kills descendants of slaves on the streets
for crimes of living while Red and/or Black
where ethnic, gender, religious, bodily, and sexual hates
are often the center of our national dialogue,
and embraced by some who want to be our leaders.
That is my personal context; it probably bears at least some
relation to yours. We are in this together, one way or another.

We gather with our own histories and our shared history.
We know that we are not alone in taking land from those
who lived on the land before us, we know its ancient roots
as recorded in Torah and we know countless ones today who
are displaced, unplaced, misplaced, replaced as were hundreds of thousands
in the Nakba, just as we know that second class citizens live
not only in prisons and jails here but also on streets
and in neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

So we gather in the truth of this time with all its ugliness
and fear and othering, but we are here also because we claim
our inheritance as people who know something about liberation,
our own and that of others, and because we know 
this day like all other days is made for us to wake up,
grow up, look up, act up, stand up, live up, speak up
from our heritage as people whose Creator breathes life
into all beings, pouring sacred water down
for all beings without exception, not based on any
puny criteria of mortals who walk among us.

What makes this night different from all other nights?
Only this: we are gathered  here today in an ancient
and honorable ritual, but if all we do is recite the words,
sing the songs, eat the food, say the prayers it will
fade like so many other days into the cavernous
space of forgotten promises, avoided truths, fearful
inaction, well-meaning but empty expressions of care.

So as we proclaim again, Next Year In Jerusalem,
we don’t want it to be the same one it is now,
we want it to be a truly golden city, of real
peace.  We intend to do our part to make it so, because
we are drawing this day on the power of each other
and all sacred beings who roam among us, and we know,
we believe, that it is our mission, our divinely inspired
mission, to join with others, many others here and there,
to create the new Jerusalem, the new Israel,
the new Palestine, the new USA,
the new people there and here, everywhere,
no longer living and walking in fear, no longer dispossessed,
no longer forgotten, no longer denied entry, exit, jobs, housing,
life, or dignity for being on the wrong side
of one line, one wall, one gate, one identity, or another.

We pray tonight, whether prayers be traditional
or postmodern, whether they be to a power greater than ourselves
or desire spoken in unbelief only to ourselves, or perhaps
not spoken with lips at all but on our posters and in letters to editors—
because we are all in this together, one way or another,
and because I know, and I believe you know,
we can change the world.

©Robin Gorsline2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

Blessed Is the One

(Lent 2, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God!
but not always by those who speak
plot design rules for living for the rest
machinations on high to channel us
into our assigned roles despite
what God may say or want.
Pharisees think maybe Jesus
needs to be warned
but Jesus knows the score about Herod
and he knows that Jerusalem
then as now is subject to political
jousting ego-driven
territorialism rather than the
care of those who love her
who want eternal peace
within her walls and her people.
How can we who listen
or at least claim to hear
God’s promises renew
the vision of a land
with people of peace as
numerous as the stars
helping each other cast
out demons personal
political religious ending violence
honoring prophets inside walls
welcoming more beyond
no more stoning killing—instead children
protected under angels’ wings
living to ripe old age loving
all as one people God’s people
saying over again over again
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God!

©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem feels so current; it is as if nothing has changed except the names of whomever is the reigning Herod and those who seek to overthrow that power. And the promise made to Abram feels somehow never completed or if it was once it now needs new life, new commitment to create peace in place of constant fighting so the stars on the ground will not die before their time. We wait and pray for someone to come to fulfill our yearning, even as we know he is already here.

Shall We Sing to God a New Song?

(Christmas, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Shall we sing to God a new song
becoming angels making joyful noise
listening to hear those high above
hearts ears open to hear
divine music in our souls to tumble
from our holy lips heralds of new birth
in Bethlehem yes but closer to home
our very own manger in which to lay
gifts of ourselves to share hope peace
joy love by which we are marked as
God’s beloved not just one night but
for life giving ourselves away feeding
the world with the symphonic melody
beating coursing in sacred veins
cherub chorus that never ends
divine energy flowing in through around us
touching hardened ones opening once
closed minds making shepherds of all
to proclaim yet again God’s love
for a world too frightened to receive
without shame and preconditions
what is freely given in delirious joy
pondering in our hearts
the gift vibrating still in Holy Land
war zones where mothers continue
to ponder in their hearts the blood
of birth as the sign of heaven’s favor
and fathers look on awed to see
what wildest dreams cannot conceive
hope rising peace born yet again
singing a new song in God’s key
heaven’s harmonics heralding
the chance to start again
where all was lost and yet
is never gone when we listen
watch wait pray hope give thanks
trusting the One we cannot see
right in front of our eyes.
©RobinGorsline2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

Prophets  Rise in Unlikely Places

(Advent 2 Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Prophets rise in unlikely places crazy folk
with car alarm voices breaking
through the imposed peace of earthly order
man or woman wearing rags even robes
ranting at passersby running like ants to work
keeping their distance feeling beaten up
life already has them gasping for air
like a black man driving in the wrong part of town no peace.
Where is peace? Is peace not our sacred gift birthright?
In this violated world can there ever be peace
And where have the peacemakers gone?
When was the last time you met one
on the street or the pew pulpit or Congress or in the mirror?
We are each called and chosen too everyone tapped
on the shoulder for a mission many decline yet the
call remains in the courtyard of our hearts teasing
us to come home to God to be reconciled in our Source
the spring overflowing with peace to fill the valleys
of despair and cut channels through mountains
of armaments so we can touch
the crooked arms of soldiers and cops
help them lower their cocked ready weapons
smooth out the roughness of their hearts and minds
in the battlefields and urban and suburban wastelands
to see God hanging out in every foxhole
not for courage to fire or achieve accuracy of aim
but for desire to love and live and hope
God prays without ceasing how do you think
we know to pray—
that someone listens someone hears someone
sees someone claims the salvation promised again
again ever given yet seeming just beyond our grasp.
The high and mighty rarely speak the word of God
preferring the sound of their own voices believing
that what they see and say is all there is
but the prophet rises in unlikely places
maybe in our own soul.

©Robin Gorsline 2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form